WHAT IS ATTORNEY–CLIENT PRIVILEGE?
Anyone charged with a crime whether minor or serious may need the services of an attorney. Many times people don’t want information about their case disseminated to employers, friends, family members or the public in general. Some cases involve sensitive or embarrassing information that could jeopardize your job, relationships or other aspects of your life.
It is important that you understand that when you consult an attorney you have certain protections known collectively as the Attorney-Client Privilege. What this means is that your discussions with your attorney are confidential and cannot be discussed with others. This includes your attorney speaking to family members, friends, employers or others that might have an interest in your case. Your attorney is also obligated not to discuss the matter with the police, prosecutors or others in the criminal justice system. Courts have been very protective of an attorney’s right not to reveal confidential information about a case.
As with every rule there are exceptions that you need to be aware of. The right to the Attorney-Client Privilege exists between you and your attorney. It does not exist between others. Many clients bring friends, relatives or parents to consultations. Although you have a right to have anyone present that you desire, you must understand that what is said during these consultations may be divulged by others present at the time. The attorney cannot control information released by third parties that you permit to be present. It is recommended in most circumstances that you conduct you consultations with your attorney without others present.
Attorney’s may share information about your case with staff members as needed to assist in preparing your case and may share certain information with other attorney’s to obtain second opinions or to assist in your defense. Staff members and associates understand the sensitive nature of the information about your case and know the importance of confidentiality. At some point your attorney may need to enter into negotiations with prosecutors or others on your behalf in order to resolve the case, but this is only done with your permission.
If you consult an attorney and determine that you do not want to hire that attorney to handle your case you should know that the attorney still has the obligation to maintain the Attorney-Client Privilege. If in the course of your case you determine to release your attorney and hire a new one your former attorney cannot release information about your case without your consent, even to the new attorney you have hired.
There is one aspect of your arrest that the attorney cannot control. Certain information about arrests are made public information. Arrest reports are made public through the police courts, and anyone looking can find out if your have been arrested. Court dates and proceedings are open to the public and posted online. This may lead to advertisements and solicitations coming through the mail from bondsmen, attorneys and others offering assistance, and depending on the case may even draw the attention of the press. Your attorney has no control in these areas and will not be in a position to prevent the dissemination of this information.
I’m very aware of the sensitive nature of your legal affairs and strive to maintain the highest degree of confidentiality for clients. I will respect and protect your privacy and make every effort to ensure your affairs remain private.